They come to mind whenever the holiday countdown begins, but mostly as beggars wandering the town for alms. Because despite a law, Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (Ipra), passed 25 years ago to improve their lives, the country’s indigenous tribesmen continue to exist in margin: impoverished, ignored and forced to seek seasonal help from city dwellers at the cost of enormous loss to their dignity.
Besides the full implementation of Ipra, resource centers that would bring social services closer to Indigenous Peoples (IPs) could be a way to advance their rights and well-being. At least that’s what Senator Sonny Angara suggests, who notes that while “we have over a hundred IP groups comprising between 14 and 17 million indigenous cultural communities…they continue to be among the most disadvantaged ” from the country.
Angara introduced Senate Bill No. 1167, or the Indigenous Peoples Resource Centers Bill of 2022, which seeks to establish such facilities in strategic locations determined by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. . The centers would focus on three main service areas, namely statistics, human development index and estate management.
The Statistical Services area will deal with the documentation and recognition of IPs and their indigenous knowledge, systems and practices through censuses and baseline reports, among other assessment methods. “The lack of reliable public data on [IPs have led] to situations where they are neglected in the provision of basic, social, technical and even legal services,” said Angara.
In the meantime, the Human Development Index service area will meet the needs of IPs for needed services through linkages with government agencies that would provide training programs, scholarships, jobs, livelihood and business support, and health services.
Assisting IPs to participate in programs and activities aimed at maintaining ecological balance, restoring barren areas, and ensuring the implementation of law developing and protecting ancestral domains, among other sustainable efforts, is the service domain of domain management.
Earlier this month, University of the Philippines lecturer and legal associate Raymond Marvic Baguilat lamented in a letter to the Inquirer Opinion page how the government’s celebration of October as National indigenous peoples had only been a “symbol”, with activities focused solely on pageantry.
“The harsh reality on the ground is that we remain vulnerable because we are ignored and given the least priority,” Baguilat wrote, citing the ministry’s Indigenous Peoples Education (IPEd) 2023 budget proposal. of Education (DepEd).
He noted that the IPEd budget for 2023 has been reduced by more than 63% compared to that of 2022, with more than 90 million pesos cut. “The budget proposal now stands at only 53 million pesos, compared to 144 million pesos. This means that less than 1% of the DepEd budget is devoted to the implementation of the IPEd. In context, the IPEd budget represents only a third of the useless confidential intelligence funds of the DepEd worth 150 million pesos,” Baguilat pointed out.
The meager allowance is also limited to maintenance and other operating expenses, with no budget earmarked for personnel services and capital expenditure, he said. This means that despite repeated calls, there will be no more IPs hired to develop a culturally sensitive curriculum, no provision for salaries, wages and other staff compensation, and no expenses. for the purchase of goods and services, noted the attorney for the UP Law Center Human Rights Institute.
Baguilat had previously lamented at a 2019 research forum in Australia that, despite Ipra’s supposed normative effects, he had failed to achieve social justice for IPs.
In this forum, this Tuwali from Ifugao Province presented ways to help government and private institutions bring IPs into the mainstream, including providing legal aid to educate them about their rights and how to claim them. It is equally important to push for corrective action in the education system and even in the media to address past misconceptions about IPs, while explaining their distinct culture and demolishing harmful stereotypes that have limited their participation in public life.
In a recent UP forum, “Indigenous Peoples and Learning Spaces in Academia,” Baguilat discussed how academia can help advance IP rights. In addition to scholarships for them, educational institutions can include IP courses in the curriculum and hire IP teachers to teach them while developing culture-based learning materials.
As Congress expresses its intention to pass the 2023 budget before the end of its session in December, Baguilat is pinning its hopes on our legislators recognizing “the importance of empowering us IPs to come out of the margins” .
Like it should be. With IPs accounting for 12-17% of the country’s total population, any decline in their culture resulting from economic need and social invisibility would mean the loss of part of our rich Filipino heritage.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to access The Philippine Daily Inquirer and over 70 titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am and share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.